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Fort Drum soldier killed by friendly fire in 2011, report reveals

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TACOMA, Wash. — A Fort Drum soldier who died two years ago in Afghanistan was killed by friendly fire, according to an Army report.

The Army had said only that Sgt. Nathan L. Wyrick, 34, was killed Oct. 10, 2011, by “combat-related injuries” at an outpost in Kandahar province.

The report obtained by the Tacoma News Tribune through a Freedom of Information Act request said three mortar rounds malfunctioned and one landed on his tent. Six fellow soldiers with the 10th Mountain Division were injured in the incident.

Sgt. Wyrick, a Tacoma native, was a member of the 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team.

The Army mortar fire was intended for an insurgent who fired at the outpost and the first rounds appeared to fall near the target, the newspaper reported Sunday.

The report said Sgt. Wyrick’s wife, Rachel M., declined to be briefed about the full circumstances of her husband’s death until last October.

When she spoke to the Times in May 2012 at an unveiling of a statue for soldiers of the brigade killed in combat, she said she thought her husband’s death was due to an improvised explosive device.

The unit that fired the rounds was part of the same command as Sgt. Wyrick’s company.

An investigation criticized the outpost’s infantry leaders for calling in mortar fire after they lost direct sight of the insurgent shooter.

However, the investigator acknowledged that they had reason to believe they knew where the shooter was hiding and that their decision to call for mortars was not the cause of Sgt. Wyrick’s death.

The investigation found that the mortar team followed procedures and that their targeting calculations were correct. Investigators concluded the mortar round malfunctioned, because another mortar of the same type fell short of its target on the same day elsewhere in Kandahar province.

In addition to his wife, Sgt. Wyrick left behind four sons at his family’s home in DuPont, Wash. He had his sons’ names tattooed on his body.

Sgt. Wyrick was a 1996 graduate of Franklin Pierce High School who played football. He had two previous deployments to Iraq. His job as a supply sergeant kept him mostly on the protected base.

The shootout with the insurgent was fairly routine, the newspaper said. Sgt. Wyrick and others were waiting it out in a sleeping tent near his company’s headquarters when the tent was hit.

“After we found out what happened we just sat there in shock,” one of the mortar soldiers wrote.

Sgt. Wyrick’s awards and decorations during his career included the Army Commendation Medal, the Army Achievement Medal, two Meritorious Unit Commendations, the Army Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Iraq Campaign Medal, the Army Service Ribbon, the Overseas Service Ribbon, five Certificates of Achievement, the Combat Action Badge and the Driver and Mechanic Badge.

The News Tribune report can be found at http://bit.ly/11W9bz1.

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